Royal Chelsea Hospital and the 29th Foot - Worcestershire Regiment

The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, has been the home of the Chelsea Pensioners for over 320 years. It is not, of course, a hospital in the modern sense of the word, but rather a hostel or retreat, though it does include an Infirmary for the sick and bed-ridden. It was founded by King Charles II in 1682, in the days when the Army numbered under 10,000 men, and was intended to accommodate all the Army pensioners. However, with the increase in the Forces, and consequently in the number of pensioners, many of the latter had to be placed on out-pension. The establishment of In-Pensioners has always been restricted to around 500. To be admitted, an old soldier must either be qualified by long service or have been " broken in the wars," that is to say, he must be in receipt of a pension either for service or wounds. In practice the great majority of those admitted are widowers, who, feeling lonely in their old age, turn to the companionship of their old comrades.

The buildings, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, are arranged round three quadrangles, which stand in spacious grounds of over 60 acres, thus forming a pleasant retreat amid London's busy streets. The buildings were badly damaged by bombs during the Second World War, and had to be restored.

The Hospital is run by a Governor, currently General The Lord Walker GCB CMG CBE. He is assisted by a Lieutenant-Governor, Major-General APN Currie CB. Both of these men are also retired, like the rest of the pensioners. They also sit on an eighteen-strong Board of Commissioners, who hold the Hospital in trust.

In the Royal Hospital pensioners are required to wear uniform, but on furlough they may wear civilian clothes if they wish.

Royal Chelsea Hospital

29th Foot Regiment (Worcestershire Regiment) - Chelsea Pensioners (1760 to 1854)

Click on the surname links below for details of men who served with the 29th Foot Regiment and who were discharged and became Chelsea Pensioners between the period 1760 to 1854. Their discharge papers are currently held at the National Archives at Kew under reference WO97.



A most impressive ceremony took place at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, on Sunday the 28th September 1947, when the Governor, General Sir Clive G. Liddell, K.C.B., C.M.G., C.B.E., D.S.O., by command of His Majesty the King, handed back Colours and Trophies to certain Regiments at a ceremonial parade.

The In-pensioners, in their scarlet coats with the Adjutant and Captains of Invalids, in full dress, paraded in the Figure Court, shortly before 11.0 a.m. The beautiful old buildings and the well-kept grass made a perfect setting for the scarlet and gold, though there were gaps in the building caused by enemy action during the war. The Union Jack was broken at the flag staff and then the Governor, with the Deputy Governor, both in full dress, with the Colonels of the Regiments taking part, were received with the General Salute. The Colours and Trophies, in charge of the Pensioners who were to hand them over, were paraded in the centre of the Court.

The Governor, who will be remembered by many old 1st Battalion members as Brigadier in Plymouth, made a short speech explaining the reason for the ceremony. Certain Regiments had asked for trophies to be returned, as they had been laid up in the Royal Hospital in the days when Regiments had no settled Depots, and the Commissioners recommended to His Majesty that they should hand over any trophies that were definitely associated with Regiments. His Majesty graciously agreed to this and commanded that a ceremonial parade should take place for the purpose.

An officer then read an account of each trophy as it was to be handed over ; as the Colour Party marched to the centre of the Court the Band of The Scots Guards played the Regimental March. As the Colour Party halted, the Pensioner brought forward the trophy and handed it to the Governor who, in turn, handed it to the Colonel of the Regiment. After the Colonel had handed over the trophy the Colour Party marched off, saluting and being saluted on the way. As each trophy was presented, the Governor said that he hoped that it would be an inspiration to the younger generation of soldiers.

Three stands of Colours were presented; first a Guidon of the 7th Dragoon Guards; then the 1816 Colours of the 36th (Herefordshire) Regiment, and the 1842 Colours of the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment, now the 1st Battalion The South Lancashire Regiment, which had been carried in the Afghan Campaign. Then followed Trophies in order of their capture. French Eagles, captured in the Napoleonic Wars, were received by The Royal Fusiliers, The East Lancashire Regiment, The Essex Regiment and the Royal Irish Fusiliers. In the last two cases the Eagles were those that are now commemorated in the regimental badges. The King's Own Royal Regiment received the Colours of a Hessian Regiment in the French service, The Manchesters a Colour of the French 21st Demi-Brigade, and The King's Shropshire Light Infantry a Guidon of the American 1st Hartford Dragoons and a Colour of the American 68th Regiment, both captured at Bladensburg in 1814.

With the playing of the National Anthem the ceremony was concluded and the Pensioners dismissed.

The public were invited to see the Trophies before they were packed away and also the Great Hall and Chapel.

Brig. B. C. S. Clarke, D.S.O. (Colonel of Worcestershire Regt.)
receiving the 1816 colours of the 36th Foot
from Governor, General Sir Clive G. Liddell

These Colours of the 36th Foot, of which very little remains, were presented at Portsmouth in the Garrison Chapel on the 10th November 1816, the anniversary of the battle of Nivelle. They were deposited at the Royal Chelsea Hospital in 1847 by the Colonel. They are especially interesting as it was to these Colours that the motto "Firm" after being left off the previous pair, was restored, through the exertions of the then Commanding Officer. A copy of his deposition to the Inspector of Regimental Colours is preserved in the Worcestershire Regimental Museum.

Worcestershire Regiment Colour Party
(Lieuts. A. Harding and J. Gregson, C.S.M. Heathcote and Sergeants Carr and O'Condell)

The King's Colour was handed over by Chelsea Pensioner George Cornelius Murphy, D.C.M. Sergeant Murphy joined the Army in 1882, and, after 14 years' service in the West Yorkshire Regiment, he joined 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment at Aden in 1896 as master tailor. He went to South Africa with the battalion, but was specially selected to join the Irish Guards when they were raised in 1900. He finished his time in the Guards. In 1914 he joined the Rifle Brigade at the age of 50 and won the D.C.M. in the same trench as his son in the Irish Guards and on the same day. He has three sons in the Irish Guards. As a Chelsea Pensioner he was the master tailor at the Royal Chelsea Hospital. His brother, Michael Murphy, joined the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment at Crownhill in 1897. He was commissioned from Colour Sergeant at the outbreak of war and killed serving with the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment in March 1915, at Spanbrouck Molen. Sergeant Murphy carries his years lightly—a fine, upright figure with a white moustache, he stepped out bravely to "Royal Windsor" to hand over his Colour. The Regimental Colour was carried by Chelsea Pensioner Norman, aged 78, of The Buffs.

There was another pensioner of the Worcestershire Regiment watching the parade, Private W. Lamb ( 2002) . He joined the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment in 1886. He served in the 1914-18 war in the A.S.C. He was unfortunately not strong enough to take an active part in the parade.

Among the permanent staff at the Royal Chelsea Hospital was ex-Sergeant C. Tucker. He entertained the escort in right royal manner, both before and after the ceremony.

There was a good gathering of members of the Worcestershire Regiment to watch, including Lieut.-Colonels Watkins, Court and Ramsay, Captain Seabrook and Captain Bradish, who organised a party of old 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment (36th Regiment) stalwarts.

Major John Ryder, who enlisted in the 36th Regiment in 1877, had hoped to be present, but unfortunately was prevented by ill-health.

Sergeant George Cornelius Murphy, D.C.M. talking to
Brigadier B. C. S. Clarke, D.S.O. (Colonel of Worcestershire Regt.)

Background History of the Royal Chelsea Hospital

Prior to 1680, little was done by direct government action to relieve the plight of soldiers discharged on account of age or injury. A few private almshouses had been founded primarily for ex-soldiers and statutory provision had existed since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I for the relief of disabled soldiers by county authorities, but this legislation had been largely ignored. Under the Commonwealth more systematic care had been taken of the wounded and sick at the Savoy and Ely House respectively, but these arrangements had come to an end at the Restoration (1660). During the Dutch War of 1664-1667 Commissioners of the Sick, Wounded and Prisoners of War were appointed, with authority to make use of half the civil hospital accommodation available in England. They also reopened the Savoy, which continued to be used as a military hospital for the next twenty years or so. These commissioners and their successors were mainly concerned with naval casualties and although they did deal with some sick and wounded soldiers they were not to play a major role in the history of military hospitals.

By 1677 concern grew for the care of permanently disabled soldiers and by 1681 an initiation by the King Charles II and Sir Stephen Fox, formerly Paymaster General of the Forces, of plans for a permanent hospital for disabled soldiers. On the 22nd December 1681 the King Charles II issued a Royal Warrant authorising the building of the Royal Hospital "an Hospital for the relief of such Land Soldiers as are, or shall be, old, lame or infirm in ye service of the Crowne" and appointed Sir Stephen Fox's successor as Paymaster General, Nicholas Johnson, as Receiver General and Treasurer of the monies raised for the erection and maintenance of the hospital. This office of Receiver and Treasurer was held by all subsequent Paymasters General of the Forces until it was abolished in 1836.

On the 8th February 1682 land was acquired at Chelsea, on the site of Chelsea College, a theological college was founded by James I, closed under the Commonwealth and not revived at the Restoration, and on the 16th February 1682 the King Charles II laid the foundation stone. In May 1683 the King authorised the use of one third of the poundage raised to two thirds, was continued by a warrant of the 17th March 1684. At the same time a levy was made on both buyer and seller of 12d (12 old pence) in the pound on the purchase price of any military commission. On the 17th June 1684 a further warrant authorised the deduction of one day's pay (two days' in a leap year) from the pay of each officer and soldier for the Hospital. This system of financing the Hospital continued until 1847.

Provision was made for the payment from the 1st January 1686 of pensions to 'all non-commission officers and soldiers that are or shall be disabled by wounds in fight or other accidents in the service of the Crown...also to such non-commission officers and soldiers as having served the Crown 20 years are or shall become unfit for service'. The building of the Hospital (by Christopher Wren) was not completed, however until 1690; the establishment of the officers of the Hospital was not fixed until the 1st January 1692; and not until the 3rd March 1692 were the first Commissioners, the Earl of Ranelagh (Paymaster General), Sir Stephen Fox (a Commissioner of the Treasury) and Sir Christopher Wren (Surveyor General of Works) appointed. Subsequently the number of Commissioners was increased by the addition of other ministers, senior military officers and the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the Hospital. Early in 1692 the first pensioners were finally admitted to the hospital.

The original establishment of pensioners at the hospital envisaged by Sir Stephen Fox was 421 non-commissioned officers and men, 4 ensigns and 4 lieutenants organised in four companies, but although this was increased to 26 officers and 448 other ranks during building, by 1690 there were already 579 men in receipt of pensions who qualified for admittance. Consequently qualified ex-soldiers who could not be accompanied in the Hospital as 'in-pensioners' in 1692 continued to receive their pensions as 'out-pensioners'. In 1694 there were 185 out-pensioners and by 1698 the number of out-pensioner privates alone had increased to 600. These were formed into four companies of 'Invalids' for garrison duties at Windsor, Hampton Court, Teignmouth and Chester. A number of out-pensioners remained outside these Invalid Companies. Throughout the eighteenth century the establishment of in-pensioners was fixed at 26 officers and 450 other ranks and it was not increased until 1816, when 3 officers and 60 men were added. In 1850 the number of non-commissioned officers and soldiers was further increased to 540; at the same time the admission of officers as in-pensioners ceased.

The number of out-pensioners continued to be considerably greater than that of in-pensioners, but was subject to considerable fluctuation. Out-pensioners continued to be formed Invalid, Veteran or Garrison Companies for garrison duties in wartime; in the nineteenth century they were sent out as settlers to the colonies. Between 1842 and 1846 they were reorganised as Enrolled Pensioners, still drawing pensions from Chelsea Hospital funds, but organised in districts commanded by Staff Officers of Pensioners under the direction of a Superintendent of Pensioners at the War Office. This arrangement was supplemented and ultimately superseded by the creation in 1859 of the Army Reserve, receiving pensions from Hospital funds, supplemented by Army Reserve Pay from the War Office vote. Until 1842-1843 payment of out-pensions was made through convenient local officials, such as Excise officers and Chief Constables of Police, but then it was made the responsibility of the Staff Officers of Pensioners. In 1877 responsibility passed to Army Paymasters. Since 1882 payment has been through a convenient Post Office. Originally out-pensions were paid annually in arrear, but since 1754 they have been paid in advance; at first half-yearly; from 1812 quarterly; from 1842 quarterly, monthly or weekly as desired; and from 1877 quarterly.

Besides their pensions function, the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital have since the beginning of the nineteenth century been responsible for the distribution of Army prize money. At first their responsibility extended only to unclaimed shares remaining in the hands of agents appointed to distribute prize money arising from a particular capture, subsequently it came to embrace the whole distribution. Any shares which remained unclaimed after six years were to be available for the use of the Hospital and the Commissioners were also to deduct five per cent of all money paid out to meet the expenses of distribution.